You Shoulda Put A Ring On It

One reason I am still so passionate about consumer research is that no matter draconian, desperate and conflated billion dollar companies get about how they try and justify business practices in pursuit of Wall Street cred is that when the end user is finally presented with the option of whether or not they are down with any of it, they will inevitably give you a reality check that they are increasingly less likely to be lethargic automatons.

Streaming services have simply become too expensive, too proliferous, too fragmented and too indifferent for an increasing number of consumers to ignore.  That’s not just my opinion, it’s those of 1000 adults who were recently surveyed by Suzy, as the ubiquitous Jon Lafayette of reported yesterday:

A new survey from DirecTV Advertising found that 22% of U.S. adults canceled a streaming video service in the last three months.

The top reason that people canceled their service — cited by 35% of respondents — was because they weren’t spending enough time with the service to justify the cost.

Other frequently cited reasons for dropping a streaming service include: a need to cut back on entertainment spending; the streaming service raising its price; a lack of new content on the service; and the subscriber being finished with the show they signed up to watch.

And in a world where the most recent “solutions” that these companies have offered up is to drop titles entirely that don’t reach a certain threshold of KPI justification to remain economically viable, or sell those that have some degree of appeal nonexclusively, yet continue to try and find more different ways to extract more ARPU from subscribers in the same breath, it doesn’t look like any rush to make the kind of commitment that far greater proportions of people have made–and, upon reflection, increasingly realize is worth their while–to MVPDs.

Yes, this particular study was conducted by DirecTV, so one who may be inclined to carry the banners that will likely be raised during tomorrow morning’s Emmy nominations for streamers could be inclined to snark when these other factoids that Lafayette reported on were disclosed in the same study:

Virtual MVPDs tend to have a higher frequency of use than subscription video-on-demand platforms, the MVPD-funded study found. In May, viewers 25-54 spent twice as much time with DirecTV streaming services each week as they did with Netflix.

Now why might that be?  Perhaps because MVPDs by their very nature offer more different reasons to engage than just waiting around for a new season of something you like to be dropped.  There are plenty of billboards all over Hollywood touting the new seasons of The Witcher and Stranger Things now, and perhaps tbere might be some Johnny-come-latelies who could stumble upon INSECURE now that it’s also available on Netflix.  And, indeed, that DirecTV study offered up the olive branch that someone who might have dropped Netflix could indeed find their way back this summer, especially if it the service offered some economic incentive to do so.  As CYNOPSIS reported this morning, another recent study, conducted by the respected HUB Entertainment Research firm, confirms this:

Low price is by far the most important factor for consumers determining the value of a TV service, but stability and a large library of content are also significant factors. “The video ecosystem is clearly at an inflection point. Gone are the days when providers could reliably count on revenue growth from new subscribers,” said Mark Loughney, senior consultant to Hub. “This leads to a quandary: how to deliver the volume of content necessary to keep subscribers loyal, while at the same time controlling production costs. Reconciling this dilemma will be the key to long term success in the video marketplace.”

Interestingly, that’s exactly the kind of value proposition MVPDs like DirecTV offers.  And they continue to tweak their portfolio; just yesterday they announced national carriage of MeTV, the most popular library aggregator of content as measured by Nielsen, as well as increased availability of Family Movie Classics.  Sure, plenty of these titles are available on streaming services as well.  And sure, streamers offer the option to watch any particular episode on demand.  But when was the last time you were so specific in what you wanted to watch?  And if you were, say for that long-desired new season fix, how willing are you to continue to pay for it, especially when it’s not exactly a turnkey process to navigate in and out of different walled gardens to find it?

It’s particularly snark-worthy for me when I see some high-priced analyst to tech media companies offer the hope that the first company (Microsoft?  Apple?  Comcast?) that is able to offer a way to aggregate streamers into one service where navigation between them was available will gain a significant advantage in the streaming wars.  Funny, that’s exactly what companies like DirecTV, and yes, even old-fashioned cable, have offered for decades.   And for a price that on a total value basis ultimately proves to be lower than what one might spend on several different streamers, and involves a lot less attention to detail to constantly navigate in order to take advantage of the freedom of non-commitment that streamers like to try and tout.

Streamers and consumer advocacy companies like to try to attack MVPDs because they believe consumers deserve to be free of long-term commitments and subscriptions that they see are difficult to get out of.   But like any long-term commitment, as long as both parties are willing to invest in an occasional expression of gratitude and novelty, more people than not are willing to consider the benefits of security and comfort rather than perpetually playing the field.

And anyone who may be trying to find a way to get people to watch something nominated for an Emmy–and Lord knows if actors join writers in striking by Thursday mornings those efforts will lie solely on grassroots efforts by streamers’ marketing teams–might want to look a bit less down their noses at the likes of MVPDs and realize that a little TLC, and perhaps some value, might keep them around a bit longer.

Maybe you don’t quite need to spring for a ring.  But pay them some attention.  And if I come out a bit more positive about the likes of DirecTV,  ya can’t be mad at me.  Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh.

Until next time…



Leave a Comment